Indonesia posts largest trade gap in 7 months

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    New cars wait to be loaded onto cargo ships for export at the Tanjung Priok Car Terminal in Jakarta. November’s trade gap was $1.33 billion, data from the statistics bureau showed on Monday, the widest since April and much larger than the median forecast of a Reuters poll of a $130 million deficit. (Reuters Photo)
    New cars wait to be loaded onto cargo ships for export at the Tanjung Priok Car Terminal in Jakarta. November’s trade gap was $1.33 billion, data from the statistics bureau showed on Monday, the widest since April and much larger than the median forecast of a Reuters poll of a $130 million deficit. (Reuters Photo)

    JAKARTA- Indonesia posted its biggest trade deficit in seven months in November, as exports fell more than expected and imports of consumer goods soared ahead of year-end festivities.

    November’s trade gap was $1.33 billion, data from the statistics bureau showed on Monday, the widest since April and much larger than the median forecast of a Reuters poll of a $130 million deficit.

    Southeast Asia’s largest economy had a surplus of $172.5 million in October.

    The trade data is among a host of macroeconomic indicators closely watched by investors and the central bank. Bank Indonesia (BI), which is scheduled to meet later this week to review monetary policy, is seeking to narrow the current account deficit to between 2.5 percent to 3 percent of GDP in 2019, from 3 percent in 2018.

    November’s surprisingly large deficit is unlikely to affect BI’s decision this week as the central bank will probably keep interest rates unchanged after the Federal Reserve signaled no change to U.S. interest rates in near future, Wisnu Wardana, Bank Danamon’s economist, said.

    “Next year will be more challenging for exports, while imports could be falling even more with consumption moderating,” he said. He added that if trade performance does not improve significantly, BI would have to be “more careful with its monetary easing” to keep the rupiah currency stable.

    BI has cut its key rates four times since July by a total of 100 basis points to shield domestic economic growth from a global slowdown.

    Exports in November amounted to $14.01 billion, down 5.67 percent on-year, sharper than the poll’s 1.18 percent estimated fall, due to soft prices of some of Indonesia’s main commodities like coal and rubber.

    Imports in November fell 9.24 percent from a year earlier to $15.34 billion, compared with an expected drop of 13.32 percent in the poll. Consumer goods imports rose 16.28 percent on-year. – Reuters